New priorities will be evident in DEC budget cuts

With the announced trimming of the Department of Environmental Conservation by 200-plus positions, many people are wondering how the agency assigned to manage and protect our natural environment and resources thereof can effectively function. Between attrition and dual-rolling of responsibilities, the agency has been operating on a bare bones format for the last several years, so I suspect we of the grass roots level won’t notice much of a change.

For those of us that deal with the department on a fairly regular basis, what we have noted is a rather steady erosion of service, whether they pertain to garnering data or information, or physical on-site response to potential violations of the law, the time lag between notification and response has progressively grown longer. Now, like many communications we are involved in, much of it is done electronically, and even then, it may be a while before any action is taken.

Now the flipside to this is that, due to the extended responsibilities that fall under the DEC’s charge, those of environmental importance have gradually taken dominance while those of fish, wildlife and marine resources. And with the current natural gas mining rush, environmental protection has increasingly been high-lighted in Albany as drilling operations guidelines are developed. Once done and implemented, these will require supervision and inspections …and that will take manpower, something the DEC is increasingly short of these days.

Make no mistake, our state is financially strapped, and the outlook doesn’t appear very rosy. So when it comes time to start slashing at the various state agency and program budgets, you can bet that environmental needs will garner the most support and funding. That’s all well and good, but it will probably require the old “rob Peter to pay Paul” manipulating of available and anticipated income funds by the Depart of Budget. While funds from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) will help, it’s doubtful they’ll be sufficient. So funding and personnel from other sources will be looked at. One of those will be the Div. of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources (FWMR).

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